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US Ambassador in Moscow Confirms ‘Assad’s Departure during Transition Period’ | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Russian deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Gennady Gatilov addresses the Conference on Disarmament at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland February 28, 2017. (Reuters)

Moscow – US Ambassador to Moscow John Tefft stressed Washington’s insistence on Syrian regime head Bashar al-Assad’s departure, adding that Iran is not contributing to Syria’s settlement process and doubted its role in the de-escalation zone.

These statements were made as Moscow is preparing to receive UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura to discuss activating the Syrian settlement, said Russian deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov.

Tefft said Tuesday during his meeting with representatives of Russian media that the current US administration is insistent on Assad’s departure. He added that the only difference between the current administration and that of Obama’s is that maybe Trump’s administration sees that Assad must leave, but not necessarily now as some sort of transition period must take place.

Speaking to reporters, Tefft said that the United States was just an observer in the Astana process, not a guarantor, and it had several questions regarding this process even though Washington supported it overall. The United States still has questions on whether Iran should play the role of a guarantor.

According to the ambassador, the United States does not believe that Iran plays a positive role in the Syrian settlement process.

When asked whether counter-terror cooperation between countries, carried out at the US base in Qatar, would continue, Tefft replied: “I would assume that the contacts that go on between the Russian military and the American military at that base will continue.”

In a related matter, Gatilov said that de Mistura will visit Moscow on Thursday to hold talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the crisis in Syria.

Gatilov told Interfax on Tuesday that the visit comes within the framework of constant contacts with de Mistura to exchange views about the current situation in Syria and settle the crisis in the country and means of activating the process of the Syrian talks.